Chuck Wendig has once again thrown the gauntlet with a flash fiction challenge. He loves those random choice prompts. After using Random.org, I came away with "Steampunk/The character is being hunted/Must feature a demonic possession."
At 978 words, here's my attempt:
|Original photo by: Steve Parker|
Doing the Devil's Work
I heard the clanking footfalls just before I caught a whiff of axle grease and dove into a small alleyway, dragging my little brother with me. He hissed and growled, so I clamped a hand over his mouth and tried to ignore him biting me.
The Tin Soldier clambered its way down the deserted street, huffing steam with each step like an old man on his morning walk. I watched the pistons circle and pump, the steam jet out into the cold November air, and pressed myself further against the brick. Bobby bit at my hands and slapped at my face, the sleeves of his restraining jacket flapping around wildly, but I kept my palm planted firm. Eventually, the Tin Soldier was gone, turning with a squeal and heading down Oakshire Road.
I stepped out of the shadows and dragged Bobby along as he hissed and snarled.
“If you don’t stop, I’m going to tie your sleeves again.”
“Your soul will be fed to the damning fires for eternity, you rotten little bitch!”
“Yes, well...at least I’ll be warm.”
We snaked through back alleys, and finally reached the church as the sun was setting and snow began to fall. I grabbed one of the massive iron door handles and pounded it, casting a furtive glance around for anymore Soldiers. The door opened and a large, white haired priest with a wide, red face smiled.
“Father! I have him! I got him!”
“Go diddle a choir boy, holy man,” Bobby said. His voice was getting rougher and lower, becoming more like a dog’s bark than the voice of a six-year-old boy.
“Yes, I see what you were speaking of. Bring him in before either of you are seen.”
The cathedral was massive, with vaulted ceilings and wide, beautifully carved arches depicting tiny cherubs and beautiful, severe angels, staring forward, faces set. I followed the priest to the front of the church where candles shimmered against gleaming bronze candlesticks, casting a comforting warm glow.
“Let me examine him in the light,” the priest said.
I bound Bobby’s sleeves. The priest squatted and examined Bobby’s face as he shrieked and thrashed about. He hardly looked like himself anymore. His eyes were ringed by dark circles, his hair had fallen out in large clumps, and the teeth that hadn’t fallen out on their own were broken off or ground down to nubs. “Satan’s work has certainly been here,” the priest mumbled, then turned to massive open book on a shelf. He flipped through its crumbling pages, jotting notes notes onto a scrap of paper. I watched and nervously smoothed my dress. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Sir, can you help my brother?”
The priest cleared his throat and smiled.
“I believe so, miss. God does great things.”
“It was those bas--those bad men in the capital. They took Bobby and did things to him. I saw many more just like him--possibly hundreds. They already have those steam abominations patrolling the streets, what could they possibly need with demons?”
The priest regarded my brother again. “That is troubling news. I didn’t expect you to have seen all that.”
Just then, the door to the church swung open and two men in a bright blue uniforms marched in.
“Is that the girl?”
“It is,” the priest said.
My heart stuttered. My breath refused to catch. My knees tried to buckle. I whirled on the priest and pounded on his chest.
“How could you? How could you, you bastard?”
The priest regarded me sadly and said nothing. I felt the officer’s rough hands on my arms as he grabbed me, dragged me away.
My brother uttered a raspy cackle. “Not bad, holy man. I like you. You’re a slippery one. A man after my own heart”
The priest’s face paled.
“Get that monster out of here! I want it out of this place!”
The other officer grabbed my brother and threw him over his shoulder. Bobby didn’t struggle. He just kept laughing that wicked cackle. I was shouldered as well and though I kicked my legs and pounded my fists, it was no good.
Outside the snow still fell. It had begun to gather on the steps and railings in fluffy, quieting pillows. I strained to look over my shoulder and saw a prison wagon sat waiting, it’s doors open, revealing heavy shackles and unwieldy iron locks. I closed my eyes and tried to hold back tears. The priest was as crooked as everyone else. It appeared even God had abandoned us.
Suddenly, I heard screaming off to my right. I glanced over and saw my brother, the sleeves of his restraining jacket shredded, burying his tiny thumbs into his captor’s eyes. The man screamed and pounded on my brother’s tiny body, but the blows might as well have been against stone. I knew that all too well. There was a soft popping sound, and the man dropped to his knees. My brother released him, and the officer curled into a ball, holding his face and whimpering.
My own officer tossed me aside and drew his pistol. I dove at his arm as he fired, then I jerked his gun away and bashed him in the back of the head. Blood poured from the gash as he collapsed. Then I snatched Bobby into my arms and sprinted away as fast as I could. My brother chuckled again and began licking something off his fingers. I said a quick prayer of thanks to God, but I wondered. Did God have anything to do with this, or was I playing for a different team now? I looked at Bobby’s chubby, six-year-old cheeks and noticed a smear of blood. Was that from my hands or his? And did it really matter anymore?
As we disappeared into the darkness, the church bells rang in the witching hour.